THE DEADLY SINS OF PRESUMPTION AND DESPAIR
Salvation is not guaranteed! The Catholic Church teaches us that salvation was gained through the agonizing death of Jesus on the Cross, but it is not guaranteed to all people. Many fundamentalist denominations profess that Christ actually promised that Heaven is theirs in exchange for a remarkably simple act; they are only required at one point in their lives, to ‘accept Jesus as their personal Savior’. They might live an exemplary life thereafter, but living well is not crucial and it does not affect their salvation. These groups will quote Galatians 2:21; “The Son of God. Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” They see Christ as their personal Savior and therefore these words are seen as a guarantee of their salvation.
The Catholic Church teaches that salvation depends on the state of the soul at the time of death. Christ has redeemed us, but this is not a guarantee of salvation; it is just a necessary prelude. Jesus did His part, now we have to do ours.
In order to enter Heaven our soul must be in what the Church refers to as a state of grace; (sanctifying grace). Grave sin, also known as mortal sin, destroys sanctifying grace in the soul of the sinner, thereby causing the soul to be liable to condemnation to Hell for all eternity. The person who has been a lifelong sinner, yet repents on his deathbed and the saint who never committed a mortal sin will each gain heaven, though the sinner will have to undergo a period of suffering in purgatory as atonement for his sins. (The word purgatory is derived from the Latin purgatio, which means cleansing or purifying.) Only a purified soul may enter Heaven.
Some might say that God is unfair by putting such an emphasis on our last moment in life, but we are granted many opportunities to repent of our sins during our lives. Grace is always available to us; all we have to do is reach for it. God could not make it any easier for us; He even allowed His only Son to be sacrificed for us, that we could achieve salvation.
During the Protestant reformation the reformers saw justification as a mere legal act by which God declares the sinner to be meriting heaven even though he remains in fact sinful and unjust. Justification was considered a form of blanket, which covered all sins, and those who ‘accepted Christ Jesus’ would be saved. No mention was made of Catholic Church teaching which required that all mortal sins be confessed and repentance offered for them in order for salvation to be achieved. Fundamentalist teaching is that God ‘covers’ our sins so we can be saved, even with those sins on our souls. In his booklet called There is Therefore Now No Condemnation, Wilson Erwin writes: “…the person who places his faith in Jesus Christ and His Blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation.” This is the purest form of fundamentalist teaching, but is in direct confrontation with the teaching of the Church founded by the Son of God, Jesus Christ; the Catholic Church! Many Protestant denominations do not accept this concept but actually follow the lines of Catholic teaching on salvation.
If we lead a sinful life in the expectation that we can repent at the end of our life and thus gain salvation we are guilty of the sin of presumption! It is also quite illogical to assume that we will be aware of our last moment on earth and risk our eternal future on this line of thinking, for we never know when “the Master will return.”
Our Holy Mother Church teaches dogmatically that is sinful for us to rely solely on God’s mercy for salvation without our repentance. This is the most evil form of the sin of presumption.
DESPAIR is the most serious sin a person can commit! In John, 20:22 Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit unto the Apostles with the words: “...Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” When Jesus empowered the Apostles to forgive sins He did it by imparting the Holy Spirit unto them. When we deny the power of the priest to forgive even our most horrendous sins we are, in effect, denying the Holy Spirit, and as we read in Mark, 3:28, this is an unforgivable sin.
Like presumption, despair is a sin against the First Commandment. It steers us away from hope, which is an infused virtue received at Baptism together with sanctifying grace and having the possession of God as its primary object. In Mark, 3:28-29, we read that: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Number 1864 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:29; Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10) There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept His mercy by not repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.”
Pope John Paul II, in Dominum et vivifacentum (no. 46) states: “According to such an exegesis, (critical interpretation of a text) ‘blasphemy’ does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the ‘convincing concerning sin’ which comes from the Holy Spirit and has the power to save, he also rejects the ‘coming’ of the Counselor; that ‘coming ‘ which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ’s Blood: The Blood which ‘purifies the conscience from dead works.’
“We know that the result of such purification is the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, whoever rejects the Spirit and the Blood remains in ‘dead works’, in sin. And the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in the radical refusal to accept the forgiveness, of which He is the intimate giver and which presupposes the genuine conversion, which He brings about in conscience. If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or the next, it is because this “non-forgiveness’ is linked, as to its cause, to ‘non-repentance’, in other words to the radical refusal to be converted.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, when asked why blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was unforgivable and how this blasphemy should be understood, replied: “It is a question of a sin that is unforgivable by its very nature, insofar as it excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sins takes place.” Simply stated, it means that in order for us to have our sins forgiven by the Holy Spirit, we must first believe that the Holy Spirit can remove our sins.
We are guaranteed forgiveness of even our most horrendous sins if we merely avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are truly penitent, and perform the penance given by the priest. No matter how much or how frequently we hurt Him, God loves us so much that He freely bestows on us His forgiveness. All we have to do is admit our fault and ask. Fred Paschall MI
Fred Pascall MI
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